The word ‘diva’ came from opera but, as pop music matured, there was no other way of describing some of the female artists it was producing!
Artists such as Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Dusty Springfield, Cher, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner and Celine Dion were strong women with powerful voices, and it was easy to view the soul singers as divas too when their ranks included the likes of Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige.
When the diva re-appeared in the UK in the early noughties, suddenly everyone was looking for the new Amy Winehouse. We quickly got releases by Joss Stone, Florence & The Machine, The Gossip, Duffy and Paloma Faith, but the one to completely clean-up was Adele. The 30 million worldwide sales of Adele’s second album ‘21’ show us the diva is alive and well.
The soul singers have been replaced by a dazzling collection of neo-soul and R&B singers. Today’s divas include the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, India.Arie, Jazmine Sullivan, Chrisette Michele, Leela James and Ledisi. If you like the aforementioned soul legends, you will love these new divas.
In numerical terms, only a small percentage of pop stars actually have a career. The road is littered with one hit wonders and, if even if they do make one, killer debut album, most artists are struck down by Terrencetrentdarbyitis. They have their whole life to write that first album and then some schmuck A&R person gives them six months to write the second album!
Surviving is not the norm, surviving is a miracle, and a diva who has roared back with a great new album is Faith Evans. Few stories are quite as colourful as Faith’s. Having met rapper The Notorious B.I.G. at a photo shoot, Faith married him in 1994 and gave birth to their son in 1996. Marrying one of the most famous rappers in the world is not the wisest thing to do if you’re looking for emotional stability and a quiet family life. The marriage was turbulent. Biggie is reported to have had affairs with fellow rappers Lil’ Kim and Charli Baltimore. He was eventually murdered in March 1997.
It’s no wonder Faith’s material is so full of drama and drenched in bona fide soul emotion. She recorded three hit albums for Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs’ Bad Boy label, including the enduring club anthem ‘Love Like This’, later to become a No. 1 hit for Fatman Scoop entitled ‘Be Faithful’. She recorded one good album for Capitol Records, then fumbled in the wilderness for five years. Her fifth album did little and her personal life began to collapse.
In August 2010, Evans was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor drunken driving. In 2011, Evans filed for divorce against her second husband, Todd Russaw. The couple agreed to spend 13 weeks in a drug-treatment program in exchange for halting any further prosecution of their drug-possession case. In May 2011, Evans and Russaw announced they were getting a divorce, and stated they would like to keep it quiet for the children’s sakes.
Amazingly, almost 20 years after the release of her debut album, the girl has become a woman, and her sixth album ‘Incomparable’ is rather good. In sales terms, the album hasn’t done well in America, but then it doesn’t contain the popular bump & grind, hip-hop-soul of young chicks like Ciara and Ariana Grande.
But the readers of nonbeige.com will love ‘Incomporable’! It’s got a contemporary sound but it also has traditional R&B and soul woven into it. If ‘What’s The 411?’ excited you, Faith’s new album has that substance and swagger.
I particularly like the album title track, which owes a debt of thanks to D Train’s ‘You’re The One For Me’. This is one of the party anthems of 2015! If you want to hear the divas of both yesterday and today, check my weekly radio show,
Saturday at midday on www.mi-soul.com
(Incomparable by Faith Evans is released on 22nd September)
As always, Lindsay writes and Big Mo does the playlist – Introducing “The Diva Playlist” press play and sing your heart out!